We are just ending week 10 of the official “stay-at-home” order in the state of Illinois and other states across the country. The initial fear and anxiety about the virus and its very real impact have melded with exhaustion and fatigue of the way we are living, and now uncertainty as to what’s next as we move forward.
Some people want to get back to work at all cost, with the very real need to support their family. Others are afraid to get back out but may face job loss if they don’t go. You may have heard still others say they wish they could just get the virus so they would have the antibodies.
A common theme through all is a struggle to adapt to this new normal. Our nervous system is constantly in a state of “fight, flight, or freeze.” That response framework from our nervous system served us well back in our cave dwelling days to save us from physical danger.
Today, we may be in a constant state of feeling anxious. So the question is, how can we manage to stay in the present and grounded to what is actually happening before us in the moment, as opposed to focusing on what could happen in the future?
Here are three approaches to help (watch the video for more details on each).
Take a deep breath all the way into your abdomen. Imagine you are filling up a balloon with air. Exhale to fully deflate the balloon. Focusing on your breathing forces you into the present. It gives much needed oxygen to your brain. And you can do it anywhere, without anyone even knowing.
Grounding is a way to be more aware of your body in time and space. Lightly tapping your feet, right, then left, or tapping your fingers on your thighs, one side at a time, sends signals across the mid-line of your brain, right to left and back, and centers you in place and in the present.
3. Crucial Conversations
How will you handle conversations across differing opinions—with loved ones, co-workers and more? Use positive, invitational, “I” language. For example instead of “you are making me uncomfortable…” or “I am not comfortable…” Try, “I am more comfortable when we wear our masks. May I invite you to join me? I’d really appreciate it when we are together.”
What are you doing?
Visualization helps many—in fact, exercise studies show that visualization alone, while not replacing the full effect of exercise, has tangible, measurable results. Mindfulness is another. Apps like Calm or Insight Timer offer exercises and practices right from your phone. And, for some, a great kickboxing class is just the ticket to relieving stress and built up energy.
The good news is there are tools to address anxiety and help stay calm. And, there’s also help. Short-term counseling with a licensed therapist can help with navigating this next phase of uncertainty. Contact us to find out if it’s right for you.